Monday, June 9, 2008

Anarchy in the ROK

In an earlier post, I quoted a Korea Herald writer who used the words "chaos" and "anarchy" to describe the state of Korea since the current wave of candlelight vigils began. Today I decided to visit the area near City Hall, where the vigils take place, and see how things looked. Here are some concerned citizens dangling their feet in the water of the river leading up to the square, pondering whether democracy has a future in Korea:

This river is part of a massive public-works project from Lee Myeong-bak's term as Mayor of Seoul, before he became president. It helps to explain, I think, why people voted him into the Blue House: maybe they thought he'd do more things like this, that benefit everybody, not just the conglomerates.

Geez, they'll let anybody into Korea these days:

Here's a dangerous leftist student activist, stirring up the people:

Protesters and police alike were preparing for tonight's show:

Hmm ... well, maybe this is anarchy and chaos. If you give women equal rights, the next thing you know, everybody will want them.

Of course, these pictures don't prove anything. Even in a genuinely riot-torn country, there are pockets of peace and quiet. You'll have to take my word for it that I didn't ignore North Korean commandos torturing innocent citizens in the streets; I promise you I didn't. Nor did I feel any unease walking through this business and municipal-government neighborhood. (The American embassy, by the way, is just a few blocks north of that statue.) It was a day like any other, much like other days I've walked around this area since 2001.

The candlelight vigils haven't brought either anarchy or chaos to Korea as far as I can tell. The participants know what they're doing; they don't want Korea to descend into either chaos or, more pertinently, a corporate / right-wing dictatorship. They're just assembling peaceably to let their government know they don't like some of the things it's doing.